Jakob Nielsen on Gnutella

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From: Kragen Sitaker (kragen@pobox.com)
Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 20:00:14 PDT

>From http://www.useit.com/hotlist/spotlight.html:
June 17, 2000
       Gnutella does not meet any established usability criteria
       (exception: very easy to install).

       The user interface is totally mysterious and does not guide the
       user towards achieving his or her goal. Instead, it exposes too
       much technical detail (IP numbers and the like) which will be
       totally confusing for the average user. The design is bragging
       about its own technical prowess as opposed to helping users do
       things easily (the term "user illusion" comes to mind - would be
       an appropriate concept to improve Gnutella).

       Just one example: when you start Gnutella for the first time, it
       doesn't do anything. You are faced with a screen with countless
       options that are not explained very well, and clicking on the
       buttons does nothing. Only if you know the magic incantation
       will anything happen. You have to type the address of a server
       in a certain field which is fine if you:
              know the name of the server
              realize which of the many fields is the magic one you
                should tweak before using the system

       Not mainstream software.

       This is a classic example of software designed by programmers
       without the involvement of any human factors experts or
       technical writers (no help included in Gnutella). It has
       obviously been very successful (1.7 million copies downloaded),
       and there is a large group of users who are willing to suffer
       through the user interface because they want to download free
       music. If you are a college student with too much time on your
       hands and five nerds in your dorm to help, then Gnutella works
       just fine.

       The entire open software movement is run by programmers who are
       motivated to bring out advanced code and not motivated to
       simplify the user interface to make it approachable by
       less-technically inclined mainstream users. If they want
       hundreds of millions of users (as opposed to a few million), it
       will be necessary to fix the user interface and bring it up to
       the standards of usability expected of professional software.

       (Given this critique, I should also say that Gnutella is
       revolutionary on a different level than the miserable surface
       UI. The deeper analysis is that these new applications
       reconceptualize the structure of the Internet from
       point-to-point connections to a true network and involve the
       individual users more closely in constructing the available
       services. Of course, a conceptual breakthrough will count for
       nothing if it is presented in such a difficult manner that very
       few people can use it.)

<kragen@pobox.com>       Kragen Sitaker     <http://www.pobox.com/~kragen/>
The Internet stock bubble didn't burst on 1999-11-08.  Hurrah!
The power didn't go out on 2000-01-01 either.  :)

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